While protecting his village from rampaging boar-god/demon, a confident young warrior, Ashitaka, is stricken by a deadly curse. To save his life, he must journey to the forests of the west. Once there, he’s embroiled in a fierce campaign that humans were waging on the forest. The ambitious Lady Eboshi and her loyal clan use their guns against the gods of the forest and a brave young woman, Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf-god. Ashitaka sees the good in both sides and tries to stem the flood of blood. This is met be animosity by both sides as they each see him as supporting the enemy.
I really enjoyed this fantasy epic! The animation is suberb and the storyline is wonderfully complex. There are battles, magic and strong characters – basically everything you’d want from a fantasy action movie, but with a serious message and environmental focus.
As with Castle in the Sky the film has stunning visual elements. Each frame is beautifully and deliberately composed with vivid imagery and colors. It is a pleasure to watch simply for the sake of the art. I especially enjoyed the Kodamas, and of course, the forest spirit. Well, to be honest that whole scene in the heart of the forest was wonderful.
Mythology is seamlessly blended into every day life and the balance between humanity and nature is explored. Lady Eboshi wants what’s best for her people and treats everyone with respect and dignity. On the other side are the gods who want what’s best for themselves and the forest. Subjectively, both sides are right, but objectively, the destruction the fighting causes isn’t worth it for either side. I liked getting both sides of the situation rather than focusing on the typical ‘don’t destroy the environment’ message. Sure, that is a major component of the movie, but it’s more about a balance or compromise between industry and nature. And that’s exactly what Ashitaka represents, the middle ground, trying to protect both sides before the destroyed each other.
There are other characters invested in the conflict for personal reasons, making the plot delightfully complex and intriguing. This also makes the plot more mature, and due to some graphic and emotionally heavy scenes, the movie has a more adult feel to it. Apart from this central conflict, there is so much else to the movie. Love, familial relationships, mortality, trust and loyalty are explored among others topics.
The ending leaves a lot open, and does not necessarily go the way you want it to go, or the way it should go, but the way it must. Princess Mononoke definitely deserves a watch. I need to go watch more of Miyazaki’s films…